Part of retail’s ability to stay relevant and innovative comes from brands recognizing the evolving consumer and their changing demands. To stay afloat, they must understand the complexities of completely new shopping behaviors that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. In Women’s Wear Daily’s new consumer journey report, developed in partnership with American Express, retail leaders and industry experts provide insights on how brands and merchants can maintain a strong shopper experience .
Here are the top five takeaways for retailers to integrate into their strategies.
Recognize the new consumer journey.
Lockdowns and safety concerns have forced consumers to pivot their habits and rethink the traditional shopping journey. According to EY’s Future Consumer Index, 80 percent of consumers have changed the way they shop. Jeff Orschell, EY Americas consumer retail leader, said shopping and distribution channels are beginning to blur as retailers transition to the new definition of convenience. He said retailers need to take new purchasing behaviors into account, considering consumers who prefer to buy online and pick up in store, those who use social shopping apps and those who still prefer to shop in person.
Leverage data and analytics to listen to your customers.
A major way retailers can adapt to the evolving consumer journey is by using data and analytics to recognize patterns and behaviors. UNTUCKit utilizes data, artificial intelligence and analytics to understand its consumers. Alberto Corral, vice president of marketing at UNTUCKit, said technology has been essential throughout the pandemic, which allowed it to be well-positioned in the transition to apparel for working from home.
Meet your customers where they are.
Customer expectations have been on the rise since before the pandemic. Retailers are expected to be present in every way a consumer wants — not just online and in-person but on social media and at curbside. Marcie Merriman, EY Americas cultural insights and customer strategy leader, said consumers expect a seamless and personalized shopping experience that integrates with their lifestyles. “Retailers must invest in the right technology and infrastructure that supports a consumer-centric shopping experience across all touchpoints.”
Stay on the pulse of the latest shopping behaviors and learn how to meet consumers where they are.
Invest in safety measures.
In the era of COVID-19, stores are doing everything they can to welcome customers back and make them feel safe. Retailers are providing additional resources to protect both employees and shoppers, including extensive sanitation efforts, vaccine mandates, mask requirements, contactless payments and more. And safety doesn’t include just personal health, but also data protection. With the ever-growing use of technology in checkout, customers want to be confident their information is secure and safe. NRF’s 2021 Retail Security Survey found that organized retail crime and other security issues increased in 2020. To counteract the rising level of fraud, retailers must ensure systems are in place to make checkout, whether online or in-store, frictionless and fraud-proof.
Prioritize sustainability and DE&I.
A newer but crucial piece of the evolving customer journey is a demand for sustainability in stores, services and products. This can include everything from using responsibly sourced materials when building storefronts to creating sustainable packaging for products. Another aspect is highlighting DE&I efforts: Social justice and activism have grown in importance in customers’ minds and brands have taken note and are actively working toward being more diverse and inclusive. Sephora, for example, pledged to expand its Black-owned beauty products to 15 percent of merchandising. NRF’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Bill Thorne said consumers have been more conscience-driven “and seek to support brands that align with their own core values.”